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Taking the lead

Former ‘character’ actors Nana Patekar, Anupam Kher and Pankaj Kapur are finally getting their due with lead roles in small-budget films.

bollywood Updated: Mar 07, 2011 14:50 IST
Priyanka Jain

Early Indian cinema started out as a reflection of the times with films like Naya Daur (1957) and Do Bigha Zameen (1953). With cult classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) that catered more to NRI audiences, formula-based films were being churned out without much heed being paid to storylines. After more than a decade of such films, suddenly, films such as Ishqiya (2010), A Wednesday (2008) and Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006) that would have been bracketed as art house cinema earlier, began garnering box office success, along with critical acclaim. And along with these movies, actors like Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Nana Patekar, Pankaj Kapur, Paresh Rawal and Anupam Kher, who were earlier bracketed as “character actors”, began to be appreciated as lead actors.

Director Tigmanshu Dhulia, who’s cast Nana Patekar as lead in his upcoming film Shagird, says, “The shift from NRI-oriented films to character-driven movies is due to the mushrooming of multiplexes in smaller towns. People want to see homogenous subjects telling their stories.” Dhulia adds, “Budgets for these films are well used and recovery for the producer is assured. So it’s a win-win situation for all.”

Nana PatekarKher, who has moved away from only playing ‘father roles’, says, "Typecasting of actors has thankfully stopped now. I used to fight with directors and producers to stop bracketing us in such a narrow manner. Elsewhere, people like Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Dustin Hoffman are treated as lead actors."

Director Bhavana Talwar made her directorial debut with Pankaj Kapur in Dharm (2007) and has cast him again in her upcoming satire, Happi. She says, “It’s easy to make him reflect the character he is playing without letting his own personality shine through. Actors like him adapt to what the director wants.”

Suneil Wadhwa, whose 52 Weeks Entertainment Inc. is distributing Om Puri-starrer West is West in India, believes movies like Khosla Ka Ghosla gain money if their marketing pitch is right. “Such movies take time to grow on the audience. Their run at the box office extends to even four weeks past the first weekend collection. So you need to choose the right cinemas and work with marketing and distribution to make it successful.”

Om Puri
West is West
Teen Thay Bhai
Don 2
Agneepath

Pankaj Kapur
Happi
Dharm 2

Nana Patekar
Shagird
It’s my Life

Naseeruddin Shah
That Girl in Yellow Boots
Michael
The Hunt
The Dirty Picture

Anupam Kher
Yeh Faasley
Kuch Log
Havaidada
Mausam
Buddha in a Traffic Jam